Demonstrations against Enbridge Line 3 continue: ‘We’re just going to stay here because we have to’

    Indigenous activists play on hand drums and sing protesting construction of a new Line 3 oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. Photo by Rilyn Eischens/Minnesota Reformer.

    Demonstrations against Enbridge’s Line 3 continued for the second day in northern Minnesota, as people opposed to the pipeline locked themselves to a barricade and camped out at a work site Tuesday.

    The crowd was smaller than the one that assembled Monday, when more than 2,000 people joined protests in the Park Rapids area. But those that remained at an encampment where the pipeline will cross the Mississippi River said they were there for the long haul.

    “We’re just going to stay here because we have to. When Gichi-manidoo (Creator) says you stay, then we stay,” said Nancy Beaulieu, an MN350 organizer and co-founder of Indigenous advocacy group RISE Coalition. 

    Raymond Kingfisher, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation who traveled to Minnesota to support his fellow Indigenous people, joked that they would set up a mailbox along the highway.

    “And you know what our address is? 1855,” Beaulieu said, referencing the 1855 Ojibwe treaty, which ceded significant portions of Ojibwe land to the United States government.

    The encampment was set up during a three-day event called the Treaty People Gathering, intended to peacefully disrupt construction of the pipeline and to fight for the 19th-century treaties giving Indigenous people the right to hunt, fish and gather on lands and waters that Line 3 will traverse. Work on the 337-mile crude oil pipeline started up again this month after a planned hiatus this spring due to seasonal construction restrictions.

    The encampment started after nearly 2,000 people marched down Highway 9 Monday, chanting and singing protest songs. About 150 of them hiked through a marsh to the site where Line 3 will cross the Mississippi River, roughly 12 miles south of the headwaters.

    More than 200 people camped overnight on a wooden platform laid across the marsh by Enbridge to truck out equipment. The encampment was calm Tuesday as demonstrators managed logistics, like keeping campers hydrated and fed in the 90-degree heat. There was no visible law enforcement presence.

    Gina Peltier, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe, said Tuesday morning that she was honored to stand with other Indigenous people during the demonstrations.

    “Just the beauty of what happened (Monday) and what’s happening — I’ll deal with anything. I’m here, and this is where we need to be,” Peltier said.

    Beaulieu said they would stay at least four days and carry out ceremonies during that time.

    More than 200 people were arrested at an Enbridge pump station near Two Inlets Monday after occupying the station and, in some cases, chaining themselves to equipment and makeshift barricades.

    Early in the day, hundreds of people entered the pump station — a large area with equipment that keeps oil flowing through the pipe — and Enbridge had to evacuate 44 employees, according to a company spokesperson.

    A Department of Homeland Security Border Patrol helicopter flew low over the demonstration, sending sand and dirt flying at the people gathered. A law enforcement spokesperson said the helicopter was intended to make a dispersal announcement, according to The Intercept, but people there said they couldn’t hear the announcement.

    Demonstrators were sitting on and around machinery in the station when law enforcement arrived Monday evening and shut the entrance gate, closing them in. A crowd of at least 150 protesters confronted police outside the station in a standoff that lasted for hours.

    Law enforcement inside the station began making arrests, including one journalist who was interviewing a demonstrator when deputies arrived. Officers gave a final dispersal order around 10 p.m. and started arresting protesters outside the station.

    Correction: An earlier version of this story understated the number of people camping at the river crossing, due to incorrect information from an organizer.

    Rilyn Eischens
    Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.